WA health minister Kim Hames has told state parliament he had “no idea” his own government planned to include medicinal allowances as income for rental assessment purposes.
The policy change means public housing tenants who receive a pharmaceutical allowance, or any other allowance, will effectively lose a quarter of it to rent.
When confronted in the Legislative Assembly by Maylands Labor MP Lisa Baker about the new policy, Dr Hames — who until two weeks ago was WA’s deputy premier — replied, “I am not aware of what the Member is talking about…I have no idea”.
He palmed responsibility off to WA housing minister Colin Holt, who insists the change is consistent with what other states do, despite evidence to the contrary.
The Voice can confirm that only Queensland has similar policiesand it does not include all the allowances the Barnett government is assessing.
Mr Holt is sidestepping Voice questions about whether he’s making WA the nation’s least generous state. Instead, he highlights that low-income tenants renting privately are also doing it tough, but still manage to pay “significantly higher proportions of their income” in rent.
Ms Baker says “attacking our most vulnerable citizens” is unfair.
“This extravagant, big spending premier seems ignorant of how seniors and pensioners are struggling to make ends meet,” she says.
“Seniors’ pensions, pharmaceutical benefits and veterans’ pensions are given to people who are already suffering under high costs of living. This government is forcing seniors to choose between buying medicines or paying their rent, paying for food … or being able to care for their much loved 20-year-old pet cat.”
WA Labor housing shadow Fran Logan says they’ll overturn the decision if elected next year.
by EMMIE DOWLING